7.23.19 / New York / New York

Michaella Solar-March Is Bringing a New Wave of Subculture to Rockefeller Center

Hosting everything from Alexander Wang’s runway show to a new live concert series with NTS Radio

Rockefeller Center might be a historic, iconic symbol of New York,  but it isn’t thought of as a place that can cultivate and inspire subcultures. Michaella Solar-March is here to change that. Brought on as the Managing Director of Marketing & Experience for Tishman Speyer, Solar-March was tasked with  bringing a new creative energy to Rockefeller Center, relying on her range of experiences from Beggar’s Group to Soho House to transform it into a cultural hub. Since then she’s developed a sculpture showcase in collaboration with Frieze Art Fair, the Love Above All Ball during Pride Week, and Alexander Wang’s Spring 2020 runway show—but it’s only the start. This week marks the launch of a new series with London’s ultra-cool radio station NTS, which is partnering with Rockefeller Center for a series of free concerts at the Rainbow Room. Ahead of the kick-off event, we caught up with Solar-March to learn about how she ended up at Rockefeller Center, and why it’s becoming one of the most in-demand cultural venues in New York.

There’s some comfort in places like Rockefeller Center which never change too much – how did you go about pitching new cultural programming?

Rockefeller Center has been a preeminent icon of New York City and a major destination for travelers and locals alike since it opened in 1934. Today it’s a place where culture, community and commerce collide, and with the spectacular deco design, incredible public art and entertainment and unmatchable immersive city views, it’s a beacon for everything that makes the city pulse. The focus of programming has always been to host contemporary art and culture that is free and open to everyone. Now, we are building on that, with original, shareable events and experiences for our tenants and socially-connected and culturally conscious New Yorkers – whether it’s Frieze Sculpture at Rockefeller Center or our ongoing artists in residence series with Art Production Fund, Alexander Wang’s 2020 runway show in the Plaza, NTS Live at Rainbow Room, ‘41 Strings’ with Zick Zinner, or dynamic landscaping installations in partnership with New York Botanical Garden.

[Love Above All Ball]

How did your experience at Soho House inform your approach to Rockefeller Center?

Prior to joining Tishman Speyer, I was the Global Director of Events and Programming at Soho House, where I oversaw the strategy, development and production for all creative programming and live experiences for the Soho House group, including creative partnerships, communications strategy and original content development. What attracted me to the role at Rockefeller Center is the potential I saw to utilize my experience and creative network to bring a breath of fresh air to a historic New York landmark.

Creating and re-launching our content verticals while I was at Soho House – whether it was rebranding the House Notes member publication or launching the Soho Stories podcast series – has also informed my approach at Rockefeller Center, where a large part of the service we provide is keeping tenants of the property engaged and informed in happenings onsite. Philanthropy is also incredibly important to me, having spearheaded our first-ever charitable Pride ball at Rainbow Room, the Love Above All Ball in celebration of WorldPride – in our first year, over 600 members of the global queer community showed up to support Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation!

[Love Above All Ball]

You also have a background in the music world. Was it important for you to incorporate that into this role with Rockefeller Center?

Absolutely! Music has always been a big part of my life. My first-ever job was an on-air personality for a Sydney-based music and culture radio station, FBi. When I moved to New York it was to work with Beggars Group, and I’ve managed to incorporate music into each role I’ve had since.

At Rockefeller Center, this has manifested itself in a wide range of music programming. Not only did we establish a partnership with London-based online radio station NTS (which is free and open to the public! RSVP here); we had MARINA and Betty Who headline Love Above All Ball; the upcoming 41 Strings Symphony with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Nick Zinner will feature 16 world-renowned musicians and is free and open to the public; and we’re also excited for the upcoming The Gauntlet choral piece which we’ve commissioned from National Sawdust – also free and open to all. We also have a podcast studio opening soon, and the NTS team will be broadcasting live from Rockefeller Center all day Tuesday July 23rd!

What made you partner with NTS to curate this music series? What kinds of performances can people look forward to as part of the series?

Rainbow Room is a one-of-a-kind space – no other venue in the city can rival its iconic status and historical significance, but many New Yorkers have never been! I wanted to open the space to locals again, and also bring something underground and unexpected to Rainbow Room at the same time. At the first event with NTS back in February, we had incredible live performances from avant-cellist Kelsey Lu and R&B rising star Ian Isiah. This time, NTS has partnered with GUSH, a staple in queer NYC nightlife, for a night of gender-bending music from incredible talent, with live performances from Ivy, The Body Hunter, MC Aya Silk Brown, Cookie, and DJ sets from Taeer, Nicole Sky, Juliana Huxtable, and Ushka. Having access to this diverse array of talent is part of the reason we are glad to partner with NTS. Another important factor is that they’re an international brand, and Rockefeller Center has always been a place that celebrates internationalism and diversity, and where people from all countries were brought together.

Later this summer we will be throwing an NTS Carnival on the Plaza. Stay tuned for more on that…

[Frize Sculpture]

There have been unmissable installations like the Frieze Sculpture at Rockefeller Center, which ran during Frieze New York, but also something like the NTS partnership which is more of a niche organization. What kind of eclecticism are you striving for in the programming?

The common thread for the variety of programming we’re bringing to the Center is that it’s available to the public. You won’t find this type and volume of public programming anywhere else, and we want people to know that Rockefeller Center is a destination for free arts and culture programming.

NTS’s motto is ‘Don’t Assume’, which is actually pretty perfect for the Rockefeller Center analogy – while people might have one idea of what Rockefeller Center is, they shouldn’t assume we’re producing the same old programming they might once have associated with us.

[Frize Sculpture]

While downtown and Brooklyn are still thought of as the main artistic or creative areas, recently there seems to be more a little more openness towards Midtown, why do you think that’s happening now?

My goal is for Rockefeller Center to be at the forefront of this movement. I think with innovative cultural programming, both locals and visitors will realize that there is so much that Rockefeller Center offers. This isn’t the Midtown they know and avoid, it’s home to elevated experiences at every level. Rockefeller Center has so much to offer – and as young professionals once ebbed to Brooklyn and the outer boroughs, I think people are now seeing the attraction and convenience of Midtown, and culture is flowing back into the city. What we’re doing at the Center is both a proof point and a result of that. Soon enough all the coolest businesses will have their NY headquarters at Rockefeller Center – don’t sleep on it!

Rainbow Room is one of the most iconic venues in the city, but many people have never even been there. What should people know about it?

This is what I was saying earlier – so many people haven’t visited Rainbow Room! It’s mostly been used as a private venue that’s wildly popular for weddings, corporate functions, charity galas, etc. We want everyone to experience this landmark space, so you’ll have to stop by for NTS next Wednesday.

We also have an incredible bar called Bar SixtyFive which is New York’s highest terrace bar, right across from Rainbow Room. It’s a great place to grab a drink and a burger with better views of New York than any restaurant in town, and Chef Mathew Wolf’s food is delicious.

Also, as a fun trivia fact, it was named Rainbow Room because when it opened, it featured a multicolored organ that would pipe lights in the colors of the rainbow when played. Super cool, and so on-trend!

[Rockefeller Plaza]

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